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Monday, December 31, 2001

Discipline with Dignity

Discipline with Dignity
from (Volume 2, Issue 6 of Toolbox Tidbits)

David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

Discipline is often the most challenging issue facing child care programs. It is challenging to develop a discipline policy that fits with the philosophy of the program as well as the families of the children in the program. If your program is part of a greater whole (such as a program housed in a school or church or recreation facility), the issue becomes even more complex.

It certainly doesn’t make it any easier to throw staff with very different backgrounds into the mix. Each person will have his or her own values regarding appropriate discipline approaches.

“Discipline with Dignity” is built on the fundamental notion that regardless of the varied approaches and philosophies, the goal is to help children be successful. To do that, the adults can create an environment that encourages positive behavior. Adults can also regulate their own behavior by watching to see that their body language and word choice are sending positive messages to children instead of negative ones.

I recently was privileged to conduct the Discipline with Dignity workshop for the Fort Osage School District’s SAC program (in the Kansas City metropolitan area). The group offered these “words of advice” regarding words and phrases that either encourage or discourage:

  • Just a minute please.
  • Well done.
  • Great job.
  • Can you please…
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Excellent job.
  • Let’s try it together.
  • Be quiet please.
  • You’re helpful.
  • Why don’t we…
  • No!
  • Stop that!
  • I’m sick of your behavior.
  • Shut up.
  • Stop because I said so.
  • I’m going to send you to the office.
The group also developed this list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for effective discipline:

  • Get your body down to child’s level.
  • Encourage.
  • Assist.
  • Praise.
  • Offer choices.
  • Guide.
  • Keep a positive tone in your voice.
  • Nurture.
  • Explain.
  • Listen.
  • Just sit.
  • Act like a kid.
  • Take your mood out on the children.
  • Ignore children.
  • Yell.
  • Discuss parent issues with kids.
  • Put kids down.
  • Argue.
  • Threaten.
  • Share personal problems.
Even when adults are frustrated with children, they must acknowledge that children want the same things we do – love, respect, understanding, caring. Always be sure that you are practicing “discipline with dignity.”

Want to learn more about discipline with dignity? Check out the Workshops page for discipline-related workshops.

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Quality Assessment

Super Hero Training
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 5: autumn 2001
Becky Gunn, Sprint

Looking both ways, ensuring that no one was watching, he stepped into the phone booth and within seconds was back on the street taking flight with a graceful leap. Superman was on his way to save another child in distress.

Wouldn't it be great if we could step into a phone booth and transform our personal powers with a change of wardrobe? Unfortunately, for the average Clark Kent, changing the way we do things and demonstrating new skills takes time and practice.

It is a truth that we see every day with children. Few children are potty trained overnight and even the smartest of tikes can't tie their shoes after only one showing of loop-wrap around-loop. We don't expect children to learn without repetitive practice, and yet we aren’t so patient with ourselves.

As supervisors, we send employees to trainings and expect them to return with new skills and knowledge that they put into practice immediately. As training attendees, we often have the same expectations. We hope that a day's training will transform our lives. When we return to our programs remembering only 15% of what the trainer said, we blame the training.

Training often fails due to unclear goals on what participants want from the training and poor follow through after the training.

What makes training successful is practice. I once heard that "training is the place where employees come to practice their jobs." Truly effective implementation of training means that employees demonstrate the skills back on the job that they learned in training. A good training event should include 1/3 lecture and 2/3 practice.

Successful implementation only happens if supervisors are clear with employees on expectations of the training and follow up with employees after the training event.

The following steps mean an extra time commitment from supervisor and employee, but will increase training effectiveness tenfold.

1. The supervisor and employee meet for 15 minutes before an employee attends training to discuss the objectives of the class and how the employee might use the new skill or knowledge.

2. After a training, employees should write down one or two action items to implement back on the job.

3. This action plan is shared with the supervisor and time frames are added to ensure the plan is carried out. Note: If the action plan includes physically changing the program, then it may only have to be implemented once. If the action is to practice a different technique to discipline children or a different method of conducting transitions then time to practice these new skills should be built into the plan before the supervisor observes the new technique in action.

In an economy that demands we scrutinize program budget dollars, we need to ensure we get the highest return on the dollars we spend. For training dollars, that insurance comes when we supervisors and front line staff take an active role in implementing new skills and observing how they are improving our programs. At least this is the only solution I know until the super hero phone booth is sold at a retailer near you.

Becky Gunn has been in the training and performance field for 10 years. She has worked with Sprint as a Performance Consultant in the Information Technology Department, a Project Manager on the Program and Process Management team, and as a Process Consultant for the Process Design Center. She is also a Past-President of the ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement).


School-Age CDA: Reality or Fantasy? (Issue 5 – Autumn 2001)
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

A frequent question on administrator’s and director’s minds is “how do we properly train and prepare our staff?”

Because our field typically pays such low wages, often for part-time, split-shift work with no benefits, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find qualified people.

However, a program can commit to providing staff members with opportunities for education.

The CDA is offered through the Council for Professional Recognition out of Washington, D.C. You can contact them at 1-800-424-4310 or

The CDA focuses on 13 competency areas:

  • safe
  • healthy
  • learning environment
  • physical
  • cognitive
  • communication
  • creative
  • self
  • social
  • guidance
  • families
  • program management
  • professionalism

In conjunction with 120 clock hours of training, CDA candidates do written work, develop a professional resource file, and are observed working in their programs.

The CDA started about 30 years ago through Head Start and now includes certification for licensed home providers and child care providers who work with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Individual states have started making moves toward developing school-age CDAs and credentialing systems. However, the greatest push has come from the U.S. Army. They developed their own version of the CDA based on the two-volume book set Caring for Children in School-Age Programs. The books cover the same 13 competency areas as the CDA through the Council. Contact Teaching Strategies at 1-800-637-3652 or at

Various states have followed suit and used the Army’s materials to develop their own credentials. Most noteworthy is the state of New York which, as of last winter, had 14 candidates who had completed the program.

If you are looking for one-time workshops focused on one topic area, then check out the Workshops page on this web site. In addition, Toolbox Training can work with you to develop a series of workshops that will span the entire school year.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Talking with Kids

Listen Up! Kids Have Something to Say
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, May 2001: Volume 2, Issue 5
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

Ask anyone in the child care field what skills they want to instill in children and they’ll immediately respond with answers like “life skills,” “social skills,” “problem-solving skills,” and “ability to work with others.” There is one skill, however, that child care providers might not immediately state, but it encompasses all of the above: communication skills.

Because child care settings give children chances to interact with each other and adults in a social setting, there are unique opportunities for children to develop communication skills. The child care providers can encourage communication amongst children in four basic ways:

The Environment: A child care environment that allows for flexibility, choices, and open-ended activities within the schedule will encourage children to communicate.

Body Language: The adults can send powerful messages to children that they want to hear what they have to say by bending down, facing children, smiling, using eye contact, and nodding.

Active Listening: By using techniques such as rephrasing what children say and pausing instead of immediately commenting, adults can encourage children to extend their conversations.

Open-Ended Questions: By asking children questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no” or with one word phrases, adults will evoke a lot more discussion and reflection from children.

We want children to feel comfortable and safe. We know that the greatest way to do this is to develop strong relationships with them. If we recognize ways of building our own communication skills, we can learn to communicate more effectively with children. Hey, if we listen to children enough, we might just learn something.

Want to learn more about communicating effectively with children? For more ideas, consider the Talking with Kids workshop, also available as a do-it-yourself training package.

Monday, April 30, 2001

Summer Ideas

This page contains the following articles:
Resources for Summer Activities
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4: spring 2001
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

Here are two resource ideas that can help you fill your summer with fun and excitement.

For game ideas, turn to Toolbox Training's Games, Games, Games: Creating Hundreds of Group Games and Sports. This book offers variations on games and sports that will already be familiar to you. For example, turn soccer into a life-sized foosball game (called Island Soccer in the book) where players stay in one spot. During the game, allow for players to change places or consider adding a second ball.

There is also a section devoted to games made up by children. Included are tips on leading children in making up games. What happens when children decide to create a Human Bowling game where the kids are the pins? What if you play tag in space (this is a game called “Satellite”) where the astronaut (the “tagger”) can only leave the spaceship for a few moments before having to return for air?

The Quiet/Circle Games section offers calmer game activities that work great for transitions.

Speaking of transitions, another book (to which some of you contributed!) that has just been finished is on transition activities. After-School Transitions: The Ready, Set, Go! Guide to Strategies That Work provides countless ideas for activities to use to fill those few extra moments while waiting for a field trip bus or trying to shuffle a group of kids through the bathroom.

For example, if you have a few minutes to spare, play “What Is It?” Pick an unusual object that children might not recognize and have them speculate how the object might be used. Encourage creative, silly answers.

You can also take familiar songs that children already know and sing them faster/slower, louder/softer, higher/lower. Consider making up new words or adding gestures.

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Fun with Summer Themes
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4: spring 2001
Ideas contributed by Kathy McCall, Heart of America Family Services

There are lots of fun things you can do with themes during the summer. Of course, there are traditional activities such as carnivals, water days, and multicultural days that programs frequently do.

A multicultural day lets kids explore other countries. Keep the focus on the commonalties between cultures rather than the differences. Pick one subject area which everyone will research (games, celebrations, food, dance, song, etc.). Children divide into groups and each group picks a separate country. The groups then do research on that country and the chosen subject area. Groups then do a presentation on their country (the flag, where country is, etc.) and the subject area.

Have a pajama party. Children come dressed in their pajamas and bring sleeping bags. This can be a special day where kids can watch cartoons and make breakfast.

For a community service day, you could go on a field trip to a fire station or have a fire truck or ambulance visit your program.

For projects, kids can do a car wash or a children’s book drive. You can donate books to Heartland Book Bank (call 816-472-5600 for information).

Put on a day based on Adventures in Peacemaking (by William Kriedler and Lisa Furlong). The book focuses on fun, cooperative learning activities that help staff teach children effective, non-violent ways of solving conflicts. Choose a theme, such as sharing, and focus the days’ activities around it.

Water days are common. Of course you can do fun activities with water balloons and you have to do water relays. To avoid promotion of weapons, use squirt bottles instead of water guns. Also consider the fun you can have with a “mashed potato fight.”

Have a science day. Set up stations with hands-on science activities based around a theme (e.g., air, molecules in motion, chemical reactions). Check out your local library or the internet to find science ideas that are fun and easy for kids to do without adult supervision.

Do a game day. Staff and children can teach other new games and could make up games as well.

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Making Summer Different Than the School Year
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4: spring 2001
Details provided by Tracie Holder, SAC Coordinator, Belton School District

In Belton, the summer SAC program is a before and after school program revolving around summer school. For each of the three sessions of summer school, Belton’s SAC program will focus on a theme. Each week within that session then focuses on a more specific element of that theme.

For example, during an animals month, one week might be dedicated to wildlife. A possible activity for that week would be to invite someone from 4-H who would bring in different animal skins or even animals themselves and do a presentation for the kids.

During the school year, children participate in clubs that allow them to extend activities over a week’s time. To give children a different experience in the summer, activities are designed to be more one-time events. The summer program also has more of a camp atmosphere instead of the more education-oriented approach of the school year.

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Ongoing Art Activities
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4: spring 2001
Ideas from Jo Boyer, SAC Technical Assistant, Southeast Missouri State University

Summer is a great time to do some ongoing art activities! Begin by talking about, looking at, and touching different kinds of art. Set up art stations for paints, chalks, markers, crayons, and clay. There are hundreds of possibilities.

Allow children to choose each day what they would like to do. Allow time for children to talk about their art. Then ask each child to choose one of their projects to be exhibited. Exhibition could be at the city library, a grocery store, or, Wal-Mart. Creative writing could be included or could be a separate activity.

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Smoothing Out the Dreaded Bus Transition
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4: spring 2001
Idea contributed by Kristi Fate, School Age Care Assistant Coordinator - Lee’s Summit Kids’ Country

When returning from a field trip, here is one way to ease the transition from the bus back into the school and the next activities. The Site Coordinator and/or assistant remains on the bus and allows all staff members to exit.

Staff go inside, grab walkie talkies, and gather area signs indicating spaces that are open for the afternoon (i.e., gym, outside, computer lab, homeroom, etc.). It is best to have a system set up for staff to rotate to different areas on a daily or weekly basis. The site coordinator and/or assistant then dismisses the children. They line up at with the staff member holding the sign of the area to which they want to go. When a room is full (15 children per staff member), the staff member leads his/her group away. This makes for a smooth, quick transition and there is not a lot of time spent standing around waiting to get the kids where they need to go.

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111 Summer Activity Ideas
from a brainstorming session conducted by Toolbox Training’s David Whitaker

Getting ready for summer? Toolbox Training wants to help! Thanks to suggestions from numerous Kansas City metropolitan child care providers, here are some ideas for summer activities. The letters beside suggestions refer to the person who suggested the idea (names listed at bottom, along with a phone number for contacting that person if necessary). Enjoy!

Thanks to the following people for their contributions:

RC: Renee Crume
ED: Erin Dennis
CE: Claire Ehney
JK: Janet Keeney
DL: Deb Loper
KL: Kari Lyon
JP: Jean Phillips
KP: Kristina Prather
JS: Jared or Jennifer Shreve
ARS: April R. Staldie
AT: Adriana Talamantes
MT: Martha Thomas
LW: Linda Weerts
DW: Dave Whitaker, Toolbox Training
NY: Noni Yount

Arts and Crafts

  • Life-Sized Spider Web – weave yarn in and out of objects within a designated space and let kids try to crawl their way through. – DW
  • Light-Bulb People – RC
  • Trash Bag Parachutes – JS
  • Salt Art – JP
  • Theme Murals
  • Making Candles – LW
  • Junk Art – use recyclable materials to create with – DW
  • Bleach Water Pictures – JS
  • Tie-Dye with Squirt Bottles – NY
  • Coffee Grounds Play-Do – MT
Character Development/Social Skills
  • Storytelling – tell a story with a strong message, but leave out the ending. Let the children discuss what they would do. – DW
  • Core Values – children can “tattle on” each other when they see someone else doing something good. – DL
  • Responsibility Charts – assign tasks for children to do daily for the week. – RC
  • Good Deed Chest – NY
  • Role Play – how would you feel? – DL
Cooking and Food
  • Edible Play-Do – DL
  • English Muffin Pizzas – AT
  • Kick the Can Ice Cream – JK
  • Make Your Own Peanut Butter – LW
  • Make Your Own Butter – LW
  • Make Your Own Cola – DW
  • Apple Juice Ice Cubes – AT
  • Generic Vs. Brand Names Taste Test – DW
  • Skyscrapers – build with gumpdrops, dots, toothpicks, etc.
  • Honey Popcorn – JK
  • Deviled Eggs in Baggies – JS
  • Trail Mix – JK
  • Edible Art Creations
  • Pudding in Baggies
  • Check out the book Cup Cooking for lots of ideas. – CE
Discovery (Science and Nature)
  • Nature Walks – gather materials to make a collage. – DW
  • Archaeological Dig – NY
  • Bugs in Magnifiers
  • Volcanic Explosions – mix baking soda and vinegar – DL
  • Outdoor Survival – RC
  • Goop – starch and water
  • Goo – liquid starch and glue
  • Plants – learn about different kinds; ask parents to share; visit gardens and parks – LW
Field Trips in Kansas City Area
  • Skating – ARS
  • Bump City – RC
  • Wacky Banana
  • Children’s Museum
  • Bowling
  • Zoo
  • Creative Candles – MT
  • Worlds of Fun – MT
  • Oceans of Fun – MT
  • Nelson Art Gallery
  • KC Museum
  • Planetarium
  • Wonderscope
  • Bayer Agricultural Research Farm
  • Science City
  • Royals Game – child care day – LW
  • Marble Demonstration – Moon Marble Company – LW
  • Theatre for Young America – ED
  • Louisburg Tiger Farm – JK
  • Apple Cider Mill
  • Bean Stalk – KC
  • KALF Days at Ag. Hall of Fame
  • Climbing Gaylans Wall – for older kids – LW
  • IBEX in Blue Springs – LW
  • Canoeing or Paddle Boats – LW
  • Deanna Rose Farmstead
  • Toy and Miniature Museum
  • Truman Library
  • Peace Pavilion
Games and Sports
  • Spuds – ARS
  • Mum Ball – JS
  • Make Up Games – DW
  • Human Bowling – DW
  • Rotation Baseball – DW
  • Island Soccer – DW
  • Games, Games, Games: Creating Hundreds of Group Games and Sports – DW
Music and Movement
  • Talent Show – JS
  • Camp Songs
  • Change Songs – sing familiar songs faster, slower, higher, lower, etc. Add gestures or movements. – DW
  • Imaginary Orchestra – each child has an assigned instrument and makes or demonstrates it. – RC
  • Rhythm Sticks – JK
  • Daily Aerobics – LW
  • No-Volume Singing – sing with no volume until the leader gives the signal for everyone to turn it up! – DW
  • Freeze Dance – ARS
  • Spanish Movement Song (Un Pato) – AT
  • Movement Tapes and Videos
Outdoor Activities
  • Kite Flying Contest – KP
  • Fence Painting – KL
  • Field Day
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Archery
  • Rocket Launch – JK
  • Scavenger Hunts – JK
  • Listening Walks – JK
  • Relay Races – DL; example: sit down on balloons to pop them – AT
  • Hula Hoop Contest – NY
  • Water Balloons – JP
  • Outdoor Cooking – make bacon in aper sack; cook egss in ziploc bags; biscuit donuts – LW
  • Water Bottle Squirt Fight – JS
  • Sprinkler – JS
  • Learn to Tie Knots – LW
  • Water Fight with Recycled Ketchup Bottles – NY
  • Book Club – DL
  • Acting Out Stories – while someone reads a story, children can act it out. – DW
  • Reading Mentors
  • Celebrity Readers
  • One-Line-at-a-Time Stories – DW
  • Journaling – based on the book Questions of a Child – JS
  • Class Mascot – children can write down adventures with the class mascot in their own individual journals. Ours is “Crusty the Pelican.” – NY
  • Daily Quiet-Time Reading – teacher reads a chapter book to children each day during quiet time. – LW
  • Hand Print Bulletin Board – on each hand, write a book that the children have read. – NY
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Want more activity ideas? Check out Toolbox Training’s activity books on games, art, drama, music, and science. You can also check out the books Games, Games, Games: Creating Hundreds of Group Games and Sports and After-School Transitions: The Ready, Set, Go! Guide to Strategies That Work.

Parent Communication

A Calendar That Parents Can’t Miss (Hopefully)
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 4 – spring 2001

Idea from Suzanne Dewey, Prime Time Site Coordinator at James Lewis Elementary, Blue Springs School District

At James Lewis Elementary’s Prime Time, it would be impossible to not know what is going on (or at least a lot harder), thanks to a huge wall calendar that details each day’s events. Suzanne got the idea from Amy King, another Prime Time Site Coordinator in the Blue Springs School District.

The calendar consists of sheet protectors hot-glued to a tablecloth. A page for each day of the month is then inserted into the sheet protector. Calendar pages detail the activities for the day - a great way to let everyone know about upcoming summer field trips!

In addition, each page is illustrated by the children. Suzanne also recommends checking out the Blue Mountain Art web site ( to get a calendar of offbeat events. For example, at James Lewis Elementary, they had National Pickle Week on their calendar.

Want to learn more about parent communication? Check out Toolbox Training’s workshop Connect with Families: The K.I.D.S. Method.

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Transition Activity Ideas

Transforming Wait Time into Great Time
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, issue 3: winter 2000
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

Think of the last time you were sat in rush hour traffic or stood in the slow line at the grocery store. What began as irritation may have boiled over into frustration or even anger. In a nutshell, the experience can be summed up as follows: “Waiting is death.”

The reality is that no one enjoys waiting. However, children are exposed to it in countless ways on a daily basis, especially during their school days. They wait in line for seemingly everything: the bathroom, the drinking fountain, lunch, recess, art, music, P.E., busses, arrival, departure, going to class, coming from class. It’s no wonder the children make such a big deal out of being first in line.

In our SAC programs we can turn such moments into positive experiences. First and foremost, we must eliminate unnecessary transitions. Second, we speed up those that are inevitable. Third, we make transitions more fun.

There are three basic kinds of transitions in SAC programs. Think of the “ready, set, go” that precedes a race. The final destination is the finish line. However, the runner must go through the three “transitions” of “ready, set, go” before getting there.

“Ready” symbolizes those times in SAC programs when adults are rounding up groups of children to get ready for the next part of the day. This includes trying to get all the kids through the bathroom or drinking fountain line. To liven up these moments, play guessing games like I Spy or 20 Questions. Give children chances to share or present them with a question of the day.

“Set” refers to those times when children are rounded up and in one place, waiting for what’s to come. Circle times and gatherings are good examples. This would also include unexpected wait times like waiting for a late field trip bus. Use this time to sing songs or read. Play quick, simple games like Hot Potato or Mum Ball. Let children share talents or abilities.

“Go” alludes to times when children are on the move, but not at the final destination. Examples are moving from one room or activity to another. Consider imaginative activities such as sneaking down the hallway to avoid being spotted by a pretend dinosaur. Play Follow the Leader or lip sync songs on the way down the hallways. When you arrive at your destination, everyone starts singing out loud to see what different spots each person is at in the song.

Remember, waiting is death. No one wants to stand in line or sit in rush hour traffic or be stuck behind the grocery shopper with an overloaded cart. If staff in a SAC program handles transitions properly, though, then “wait time” can become “great time.”

Making Transitions Work: The PFPF Rule
Originally published in The KC SAC Connection, January 2001: Volume 2, Issue 1
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

Children experience numerous transitions every day at home, in school, and in child care programs. They are constantly being shuffled or moved from point A to point B. Before making these moves, they often stand in lines restlessly waiting for the rest of the group. There are other times that they may have to sit and wait for everyone so that announcements can be made. Transitions can make or break a child care program. If there are too many or they just are not effective, everyone suffers. To get the most out of your transitions (and to try to have as few as possible), apply the PFPF Rule in evaluating your transitions. Ask yourself these questions of any transition during your program time:

Purpose: What is the purpose of the transition? Is it serving that purpose? Is this transition absolutely necessary?

Fun: Are the kids enjoying it?

Pace: How long is the transition? Is it too fast or too slow?

Flexibility: Is the transition too rigid or too relaxed? Do children have enough say (or too much) in what’s going on?

The goal is to make sure all children enjoy being a part of your program. In the end, if the kids are happy, then the adults will be too.

Want more help with transition activities? Check out the Toolbox Training book After-School Transitions: The Ready, Set, Go! Guide to Strategies That Work or the workshop Transitions That Work.